According to Bloomberg, President Michel Temer last week mulled replacing the interim defense minister, a four-star Army general, with a professor of philosophy. The military was quick to give a thumbs down.
“Are you crazy?” read the message from a top-ranking officer to a presidential aide. Temer opted to keep the general on for the time being.
The episode illustrates how the armed forces in Latin America’s largest nation are becoming increasingly vocal and assertive, some 33 years after the end of military rule. In February, they took over public security in Rio de Janeiro state; last week General Eduardo Villas Boas, commander of the Army, shocked the nation with a message essentially warning the Supreme Court not to grant former President Lula da Silva’s appeal to stay out of jail.
The most popular presidential hopeful after Lula is former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro, who advocates getting tough on crime by handing out guns and denies the 1964-85 military regime was a dictatorship.
“General Villas Boas, as I and all military personnel see it, fulfilled his duty in warning the country, authorities and society, that the institutions were heading for an abyss,” retired Army General Paulo Chagas said in an interview. “Villas Boas is saying it’s better not to have the order upset, otherwise we’ll have to act.”
In the past three years, Brazil’s political and business establishment was rattled by the arrest of leading executives and politicians. Lula’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached in 2016.
Although the economy recovered after Rousseff left, Temer was unable to impose real leadership. The judiciary is also under suspicion in the face of decisions motivated by obscure reasons.
The Car Wash operation and its developments have brought hope for Brazilians to justice, but some members of the Supreme Court insist on trying to minimize their results and sabotage their decisions.All this makes that the Military Forces become the institutional counterbalance.